COX-1 and 2, intestinal integrity, and pathogenesis of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug enteropathy in mice

Gastroenterology. 2002 Jun;122(7):1913-23. doi: 10.1053/gast.2002.33647.


Background & aims: The pathogenesis of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug-induced enteropathy is controversial, but it is thought that cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) inhibition is of pivotal importance. We compared small intestinal function and morphology in untreated wild-type, COX-1- and COX-2-deficient mice and the effect of indomethacin, selective COX-1 (SC-560), and COX-2 (celecoxib) inhibition.

Methods: Intestinal permeability ((51)CrEDTA), inflammation (fecal granulocyte marker protein), prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)) levels, and macroscopic and microscopic appearances were assessed at baseline and after the drugs.

Results: COX-1(-/-) animals were normal except for a 97% decrease in intestinal PGE(2) levels. COX-1(+/+) and COX-1(-/-) animals reacted in a similar way to indomethacin. However, celecoxib, having caused no damage in COX-1(+/+) animals, caused small bowel ulcers in COX-1(-/-) animals. Selective inhibition of COX-1 decreased intestinal PGE(2) levels in COX-2(+/+) and COX-2(-/-) animals by 95%-97%, but caused only small bowel ulcers in the latter group. Dual inhibition of COX-1 and COX-2 in wild-type animals resulted in similar small bowel damage. Between 40% and 50% of untreated COX-2(-/-) animals had increased intestinal permeability and inflammation. Some had ileal ulcers that were distinctively different from indomethacin-induced ulcers. Furthermore, long-term celecoxib administration in wild-type animals was associated with similar damage as in the COX-2(-/-) mice.

Conclusions: COX-1 deficiency or inhibition and short-term COX-2 inhibition are compatible with normal small intestinal integrity. Dual inhibition of the COX enzymes leads to damage similar to that seen with indomethacin. Long-term COX-2 deficiency or inhibition is associated with significant intestinal pathology despite normal intestinal PGE(2) levels, suggesting a role for COX-2 in the maintenance of small intestinal integrity in the mouse.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal* / pharmacology
  • Cyclooxygenase 1
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Dinoprostone / metabolism
  • Enteritis / chemically induced
  • Enteritis / pathology
  • Female
  • Indomethacin* / pharmacology
  • Intestinal Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Intestinal Diseases / metabolism
  • Intestines / physiology*
  • Isoenzymes / genetics
  • Isoenzymes / physiology*
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout / genetics
  • Permeability / drug effects
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases / genetics
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases / physiology*
  • Pyrazoles / pharmacology
  • Ulcer / chemically induced


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors
  • Isoenzymes
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Pyrazoles
  • SC 560
  • Cyclooxygenase 1
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases
  • Ptgs1 protein, mouse
  • Dinoprostone
  • Indomethacin